wondering-man1[1]

 

wondering

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.
Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

from Walt Whitman, Song of myself

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 I was determined to make a significant   detour during  August to see some public sculpture on Crosby beach and this short piece gives me an opportunity to show off some of my photographs. The journey to Liverpool  was not in vain and  I was able to glimpse again at first hand the sheer genius of Gormley  as a sculptor and public artist.

Another place  consists (I believe 60)  cast iron sculptures of the artist’s own body, facing towards the sea. The original proposal was for the Wattenmeer, Cuxhaven, Germany in 1995 and here is the brief:

“To install a hundred solid cast iron bodyforms along the coast to the west and south of the Kugelbake. The work will occupy an area of 1.75 square kilometres, with the pieces placed between 50 and 250 metres apart along the tideline and one kilometre out towards the horizon, to which they will all be facing. Depending on the fall of the land, the state of the tide, the weather conditions and the time of day the work will be more or less visible. The sculptures will be installed on a level plane attached to 2 metre vertical steel piles. The ones closest to the horizon will stand on the sand, those nearer the shore being progressively buried. At high water, the sculptures that are completely visible when the tide is out will be standing up to their necks in water.”

The  cast  iron   body forms  were displayed  at several  locations  in Europe  but now have found  a permanent home  here  at Crosby beach .  the proposal to do so was controversial  but Sefton Council  in 2007   made a bold and imaginative decision  that would allow the sculptures to be kept permanently at Crosby Beach in place of being moved to New York.

Lt’s look  at some of these sculptures  more closely

 

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The sculptures are made from 17 body-casts taken from Gormley’s   body. The sculptures are all standing in a similar way, with the lungs more or less inflated and their postures carrying different degrees of tension or relaxation.  The                  installation  stretched 2.5 kilometres down the coast and 1 kilometre out to sea, with an average distance between the pieces of 500 metres. They were all on a level and those closest to the shore were buried as far as their knees.

The idea was to test time and tide, stillness and movement, and somehow engage with the daily life of the beach. This was no exercise in romantic escapism.  The  figures  themselves  have a  deep sense of serenity  and thoughtfulness   as they  stare out in the same direction  –  there is a kind of deep  connectedness and attentiveness .  Contemplation, attention  and focus   were the words  that came  most immediately  to mind  as I wandered up and down the beach.  The tide   was moving   swiftly in  and so it was fascinating  to see  some of the statues  being immersed  in water .

 Gormley remains  a master of public art  and I was quite extraordinarily moved by the way in which this art  evokes such a powerful sense both life and death ; of nature claiming  its extraordinary claim on   humanity and sometimes our  powerlessness over  the forces of nature and  perhaps even life itself? It is however  this stillness and contemplation  that I think  is the radical voice  of this work.

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When my friend’s mother developed dementia, he was discouraged that each day she seemed to be losing so much.

Then he remembered a saying from Taoism: In the way of learning, each day we gain more and more. In the way of the Tao, each day we have less and less.

 

So often we go through life, hoping that enlightenment is “right around the corner.” Somehow, like a mirage on the horizon, the future recedes and remains out of our grasp.

 

Or do we perhaps have the wrong idea about what spiritual “progress” might mean in the first place? Is the goal to become enlightened or to accept a truth about our own “clouding?” Toward the end of a long life, in his eighties, Carl Jung wrote in the final words of his autobiography, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS, where he invokes the founder of Taoism:

 

“I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself. I am distressed, depressed, rapturous. I am all these things at once, and cannot add up the sum. I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgement about myself and my life. There is nothing I am quite sure about… When Lao-Tzu says ‘All are clear, I alone am clouded,’ he is expressing what I now feel in advanced old age…”

 

Perhaps we all need more astonishment at everyday life.

 

Remember the saying of the architect LeCorbusier:

“Less is more?”

 

Jung’s autobiography (edited by Aniela Jaffe), MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS (Random House, 1965) is available in many editions.

 

On the many-sided aspects of Jung and his influence, see also:

http://msg1svc.net/cuttk/185269/60/27405/5402/0/T/gxdu.html

 

10256594_620904578002428_3999749869489797790_o (taken by JWW Savill Gardens June 2014)

 

tree

 

not even for a moment
do things stand still: look at
colour, in the trees

 

Seiju, his death poem (d. 1776, age 75)

Cute Baby Smiling Pictures - 15[1]

 

smile

Then new events said to me,
‘Don’t move. A sublime generosity is
coming towards you.’

You are the fountain of the sun’s light.
I am a willow shadow on the ground.
You make my raggedness silky.

The soul at dawn is like darkened water
that slowly begins to say Thank you, thank you.

Then at sunset, again, Venus gradually
Changes into the moon and then the whole nightsky.

This comes of smiling back
at your smile.

Rumi

On the road out of Oswestry travelling up the Tanant valley you will find a small village, Llanyblodwel, and tucked away the church of St Michael and the Archangel. It is beautifully kept and open each day for visitors. The church is believed to have been erected after the arrival of the Normans and its existence was noted in 1160. The building has survived turbulent centuries of boarder  warfare between the Welsh and English.

DSC00282 DSC00284  Nothing could quite prepare me for the surprise that unfolded inside the church. John Parker, the vicar of the parish in the middle of the 19th century elected to be his own architect stimulated by the catholic and Gothic revival. The church as it stands is virtually his with a mediaeval core – but marked by an extravagant Gothic style which is used with exuberance and conviction. Take a look at some of what he did:

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the parish could not pay for the repairs  so John Parker resorted to his own pocket in return the being granted a free hand with the design and construction. The story goes that local people gave willingly  of the time and labour and were awarded with and enlarged and highly decorated monument which incorporated a new tower. Parker built a new vicarage and schoolhouse  or in this elaborate Gothic style. He proved himself to be a capable and multitalented custodian.

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This work was restored  in the 1960s and again  earlier this year. The result is quite spectacular and happy edition one of my vacation surprises – it was a real delight to  glimpse a parish church  loved and cared for with a real atmosphere of prayer and devotion. It’s well worth  a detour  if you find yourself in  those parts.

Aberystwyth is the principal holiday resort and administrative centre of the west coast of Wales. It is also home to the University of Wales Aberystwyth and the National Library. This excursion was especially worth the long journey across the hills through the rain to be greeted by wonderful blue skies. This brief  piece gives me an opportunity to share some of my photographs.

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The town is nestled between three hills and two beaches, and hosts some castle ruins, a pier and a harbour. The surrounding hills hold the visible remains of a iron age fort and also a monument to Wellington and once climbed offer stunning views of Cardigan Bay.

Aberystwyth is a University town with some seven thousand students, ensuring it a vibrant throughout the year and not just during summertime. Incidentally, there are now ‘only’ fifty pubs left in Aberystwyth!

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The seafront hosts Victorian / Edwardian buildings mostly 4/5 stories high. The wide promenade protect the buildings from the revenges of the Irish Sea and offers space to sit, soak up the sun and view the surrounding hills and mountains which in winter are often covered in snow. On a clear day you may see the tallest mountain in Wales, Snowdon.

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The harbour was once one of the busiest in Wales and is fed by the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol (which incidentally, is the steepest river in Britain).

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Geographically, Aberystwyth may be considered isolated from the rest of Wales. However, this isolation made it necessary for the local people to look after themselves and over the years it has acquired more resources than a town of this size would normally have.   Do put Aberystwyth  on your  list  places to visit  – and wonderful  Spanish restaurant , second-hand bookshops  and the  University Art Gallery  add to its  splendour!

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